November 28, 2003
In collaboration with fellow software artist Zachary Lieberman and singers/composers Jaap Blonk and Joan La Barbara, Golan Levin has created Messa di Voce, a new concert in which the speech, shouts and song of two abstract vocalists are complemented by corresponding live graphics. The show is part of Ultrasound 2003, Huddersfields international festival of experimental sound and electronic music.
Please explain Messa di Voce in layman's terms. It means 'placing the voice'. It's a performance in which we are visualizing the speech and song of two singers with extended vocal techniques, in that they specialise in making unusual vocal sounds. The concept is they're singing, and, as they sing, it has been visualised behind them on a large screen.
Right. And how do you do that exactly? We've written all the software that does the visualisation, which uses speech recognition technology. We know where the performers' heads are, so we can make the graphics appear to be emerging from them. We can change the colour or the shape or the texture of the graphics to correspond with the singing.
So were you a software developer before embarking on this? No, I'm an artist.
Did you have to gen up on computer programming? That's like asking a painter if they had to learn how to use paint. I think every artist has to do research into how to use their materials. The art here is software.
Sorry. That's OK. We've had some problems getting press about the project because no one knows quite how to categorise it. Is it visual? Is it a music concert? We're well into the 21st century and we're ready for a new form of performance. Although, in a way, we've had it for 100 years and we've called it cinema - but this is live.